Friday, February 4, 2011

A Plea for FIV

In his Best Friends Animal Society blog, co-founder Francis Battista makes a plea to PETCO, the pet store company, to reconsider its stance on cats with FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus). PETCO currently does not allow FIV+ cats to be shown in adoption events at their stores. This is an outdated, discriminatory practice that is based on antiquated myths and harms the possibilities of rehoming for cats who happen to have tested positive for FIV.

Back in the later 1980's, when FIV was first discovered and labeled in cats, the world was reeling in shock, horror and misinformation about HIV (the virus responsible for the human form of AIDS). We have since come to learn the truths, and non-truths, about both HIV and AIDS; yet, many are still unaware of what is or isn't true about the feline form, FIV. For cats that test positive for the virus, this can be a death sentence if they are in a shelter - among the first to be euthanized. Many people, as well, will not consider adopting a cat with FIV status, assuming the worst. Although there is still a way to go in research and clarifying all the issues surrounding this disease, there are many facts now known, and proven, that warrant a calmer, more inclusive approach.

There is a vaccine to effectively protect a cat against this virus. Cats that test positive for FIV are not all, in fact, infected with the virus. Should a cat be vaccinated, it will appear to be positive when tested, simply due to the antibodies formed after vaccination. There are also false-positive results with the limited testing we have available; a second test is required approximately six weeks after a positive test, to truly verify a positive result. Furthermore, some cats are able to rid their bodies of the virus on their own; without getting sick, without spreading the virus, and eventually (over the course of a few weeks) becoming FIV-free.

Cats with FIV cannot easily transmit the disease to other, unaffected cats. Transmission occurs through sexual activity, or through deep bite wounds for saliva-to-blood transmission. Even rowdy cats who tend to "fight" in the home, do not bite in such a way. If cats are neutered to prevent any sexual behavior, and are sufficiently entertained in the home, neither of these activities will occur. Providing a rich environment for your cats is recommended anyway, regardless of their health status. Therefore, you CAN combine cats with both FIV+ and FIV- status, without concerns of transmission.

Cats who are indeed carrying this virus can live long, healthy lives. If one considers that any cat, at any time, may become inflicted with a genetically-inherent disorder, or over time succumb to one that is age-related, the FIV+ cat blends in with the others. The only difference is in veterinary care; it is recommended to have the cat seen by a vet twice a year, with some bloodwork required at least annually. Additionally, if the FIV+ cat begins to show signs of illness, such as the usual cat flu, a preemptive visit to the vet ensures the cat will successfully overcome the usual maladies. This is all to ensure the health of your cat, to be considered positive and proactive measures; otherwise, unless the cat becomes ill, life is the same as with any other cat.

Considering many cats currently wear the label of FIV+ when in fact they are not, they've only been vaccinated, it is important if you have a cat that is vaccinated against FIV microchipped and wearing a tag that specifies this. In addition, it is crucial to keep your cat indoors, to avoid the possibility of your cat ending up in a shelter - where its future would be questionable. Until we can spread the word enough, so that FIV+ cats are no longer discriminated against, life will remain precarious for those that test positive. As a leading pet products retailer, PETCO would do well in this effort to update the knowledge base it makes it's decisions by. If you shop at PETCO, please discuss this with the store manager.
Regardless, you can contact Karen Meader, PETCO National Adoption Program Manager at her
office: 858-437-7352
fax: 858-736-8155

There are some very wonderful, loving cats out there in need of a home; they just happen to have tested positive for something called FIV. Let's help get them a home. And kudos to Francis Battista for bringing this to light! As Battista so succinctly stated, "Too many cats are dying for no good reason."

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful educational post!

    Humans might have FIV confused with feline infectious leukemia or simply think the desease is similar in behavior.

    Thanks for posting!

    Hawk aka BrownDog


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